OPINION: Boss Murray proved right over dropping of Green
Who says that football managers - and Stags boss, Adam Murray - don't know what they are doing?
As I said last week, it was a very brave decision by the manager to drop his leading scorer - and fans’ hero.
But Matt Green has responded in style and surely answered any questions asked of him by his manager.
In midweek Green came off the bench to hit the only goal of the game in the Checkatrade Trophy at Port Vale.
More importantly, he again made a massive impact as a substitute in the massive local derby with Notts County - massive because bragging rights are always vital to the supporters in the county, and massive because the Stags sent a bumper One Call Stadium crowd home happy.
Green scored the opening goal with his first touch just 23 seconds after entering the fray and then held his nerve in the final minute to convert the penalty that made it 2-1 for his sixth goal of the season.
In an atmosphere in the closing minutes that reminded me of last season’s five-goal hammering of County, Darius Henderson smashed in his first goal for the club to spark wild celebrations and clinch only the Stags’ second home win of the season.
Manager Murray has been criticised by some fans this season for the home results and performances.
Saturday’s thriller surely answered some of those critics - particularly in the way his substitutions worked, the way his side showed more intensity throughout, and the way the Stags continued to attack right up to the final whistle.
Murray’s man-management of Green has been fantastic and the striker’s post-match comments highlighted his belief and respect for the manager.
Green said: “I believe in the gaffer. The manager knows how to make me tick and the club has looked after me.”
There was no hint of bitterness at being dropped after a barren September.
Instead, the striker emphasised what a strong team spirit the manager has built up in the dressing room.
It is refreshing - and what was also telling from Green’s interview immediately after the final whistle was his reference to the atmosphere around the ground.
The Stags’ home results under Murray since he took over from Paul Cox have been inconsistent and drawn criticism from some fans for a perceived lack of attacking ambition.
That criticism has occasionally made for a negative atmosphere. Green’s words after the derby win were important for me.
He said: “Today there was an electric atmosphere.
“I know the fans want us to win, but we need them to support us - when they are singing and the drum is out, it is a so much better environment to play in.
“It is a vicious circle. They have got to support us, come rain or shine. When we come together it can be a recipe for success.”
Atmosphere and support from the terraces can make such a difference at this level, where players are not going to be world beaters or as consistent as perhaps we want them to be.
There were almost 4,200 home fans on Saturday and as they raised their level of support in the second half, so the players responded. You could argue conversely, perhaps, that as the players raised their performance, so the fans responded.
It is the old chicken and egg conundrum and one that I guess will never be solved.
I have also raised the point over recent weeks that the Stags have not had any luck in matches, in particular the rub of the green (no pun intended) in front of goal.
That all changed on Saturday – and long may it continue.
Firstly, the Stags definitely rode their luck at times as County failed to score when they were the better side in the first half, including hitting the post, and keeper Scott Shearer made a couple of good saves.
Then, as Stags boss Murray was about to bring on Jack Thomas – and how good it was to see the young midfielder back in the squad for the first time this season –County levelled.
Instead, Murray opted to use striker Darius Henderson as his final substitute and that paid off deep into injury time when the forward smashed that late, late clincher.
There were so many statistics flying around – the Stags’ first goal at One Call Stadium for 440 minutes, only their second home win of the season; their first in five home matches, their third successive win under Murray over County.
There were so many heroes on the pitch – Pat Hoban, surely the man of the match, was terrific with his hold-up play and was so unlucky when he lobbed against the bar; Chris Clements and Jamie McGuire worked so hard in midfield; the defence (still one of the best in League Two) was again miserly and only beaten by a deflected shot.
As I mentioned last week, the Stags are still well placed in the league and the derby win took them level on points with Notts County and temporarily into eighth place – still within touching distance of the play-off positions.
Now the challenge for Murray, the players and the fans is to show the same quality that dispatched County when the Stags are at home again, against Wycombe, this coming Saturday.
Consistent, positive performances and results at One Call Stadium are what is required and the benchmark was set high against Notts.
And talking of conundrums, who will Murray name in his strike force for the visit of Wycombe?
It has been good to see unchanged sides from the manager in recent weeks, but does he now recall Green to the starting XI after his three goals in two games as a substitute?